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Tufts University biologists link Huntington's disease to health benefits in young

ed immune function, as they are more likely than those without Huntington's to suffer from autoimmune diseases."

Starks said that the hypothesis pointing to health benefits of people with Huntingtons requires significant additional research. This is a hypothesis that still needs strong support through more studies, he said.

Marriage of Evolutionary Biology and Medicine

Starks, whose research areas include behavior and evolution in a wide range of organisms, noted that Huntington's disease may be an example of antagonistic pleiotropy, in which one gene creates multiple and conflicting effects. Another example of this phenomenon includes a gene that appears to decrease the incidence of Alzheimer's disease while increasing the chance of elevated lipids in the blood. The convergence of evolutionary biology and medicine can reap many benefits, he believes. "This marriage has already shed light on phenomena such as fever and morning sickness," he noted. Huntington's disease may be one more beneficiary of this synergy.


Contact: Alex Reid
Tufts University

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